Day: August 13, 2015

To Cut Food Waste, Spain’s Solidarity Fridge Supplies Endless Leftovers

Read the full story at NPR.

At a Basque restaurant nestled in the green hills just outside the Spanish city of Bilbao, head cook Itziar Eguileor gestures toward a dumpster out back.

“This all used to go into the garbage,” she says, lugging a huge pot of leftover boiled artichokes. “But now, these artichokes, we pack them in Tupperware, load them into our old Land Rover and drive them over to Solidarity Fridge.”

Deliveries like Eguileor’s arrive several times per day at the Solidarity Fridge, a pioneering project in the Basque town of Galdakao, population about 30,000. The goal is to avoid wasting perfectly good food and groceries. In April, the town established Spain’s first communal refrigerator. It sits on a city sidewalk, with a tidy little fence around it, so that no one mistakes it for an abandoned appliance. Anyone can deposit food inside or help themselves.

EPA Releases TSCA Assessment Documents for Flame Retardant Chemicals

As part of the Agency’s ongoing efforts to more fully understand the potential risks associated with flame retardant chemicals, EPA has reviewed four structurally similar flame retardant chemical clusters. Americans are often exposed to flame retardant chemicals in their daily lives. The chemicals are widely used in products such as household furniture, textiles, and electronic equipment. Many flame retardant chemicals can persist in the environment, and studies have shown that some may be hazardous to people and animals.

EPA is announcing the availability and opening of a 60-day public comment period for three Problem Formulations and Initial Assessments, and a 120-day comment period for a Data Needs Assessment document for one of the clusters. These assessments were conducted under the Toxic Substances Control Plan (TSCA) Work Plan assessment effort.

Problem Formulations and Initial Assessments: The goal of these assessments is to identify scenarios where further risk analysis may be necessary. The documents address the likely exposure and hazard scenarios to workers and consumers based on current production, use, and exposure information for the following flame retardant chemical clusters.

  • Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), also known as Brominated Bisphenol A, cluster — used as flame retardants in plastics/printed circuit boards for electronics.
  • Chlorinated Phosphate Esters — used as flame retardants in furniture foams and textiles.
  • Cyclic Aliphatic Bromides/Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) cluster – used as a flame retardant in extruded and expanded polystyrene foams (EPS/XPS), polystyrene (PS) products.

Data Needs Assessment: This document addresses the Brominated Phthalates (TBB and TBPH) cluster of flame retardants that are used in polyurethane foam products. EPA reviewed previous assessments and identified critical gaps in toxicity, exposure, and commercial mixtures data. The data needs assessment is intended to guide the collection of additional data and information.

Please visit for a pre-publication copy of the Federal Register Notice, a list of the flame retardant chemical clusters, a fact sheet with key questions and answers, and additional information on the TSCA Work Plan effort. The due date for submitting comments will be included in the published version of the Federal Register Notice, expected in the next week or so.

GreenBiz seeks Sustainable Business Reporting Intern

Did you know that Google has invested $1.5 billion in renewable energy? What about the push by mayors in cities around the world to rein in spiraling urban food and water crises?

If these are the types of stories you would like to help tell, apply to be the fall 2015 editorial intern at GreenBiz in Oakland, California. We are the leading voice in sustainable business and focus on startups, corporate executives and civic leaders who are driving innovation and bolstering the bottom line while reducing waste and carbon emissions.

Ideally, the editorial intern would be available to start during the fall of 2015 with a 4-6 month commitment. The position will pay $15 per hour and require about 20 hours of work per week in person at our sunny, dog-friendly office located one block from BART in downtown Oakland. GreenBiz also offers flexible scheduling options as needed.

As an editorial intern, you will:

  • Edit articles written by experienced writers
  • Pitch and write stories on sustainable business
  • Bring stories to life with images, infographics and videos
  • Manage some newsletter production
  • Attend and report on a limited number of events
  • Help shape our content strategy by tracking story ideas and keeping up with trends in the field
  • Update social media channels as needed

We’re looking for an editorial intern who:

  • Expresses a talent for writing and editing, along with a knack for catchy headlines
  • Is confident with online Content Management Systems, image editing and social media tools
  • Has an interest in business, technology or environmental issues — ideally, all of the above
  • Works collaboratively and diplomatically with a team of remote freelancers and expert contributors
  • Demonstrates a solid grasp of journalism ethics
    Can help with brainstorming and story planning
  • Works well independently and within a team
  • Is familiar with AP style

To apply, please send your resume along with links to three-five great stories you’ve written or edited to Please note that applications will be reviewed as they are received and that plain text emails with work sample URLs are preferable to attachments.

Water mafia: Why Delhi is buying water on the black market

Read the full story from the BBC.

About 20% of Delhi’s population have no access to piped water and have to be supplied by water tankers. But the difference between demand and supply is more than 750 million litres a day.

So they have to rely on the black market – water supplied by private contractors, or “the water mafia”, as it has come to be known.

How NASA’s Flying Laboratory Is Tracking California’s Drought

Read the full story at Bloomberg Business.

A team of scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is tracking California’s snowpack levels aboard a flying laboratory.

It’s called the Airborne Snow Observatory—a Beachcraft King Air turboprop plane with two key instruments on board measuring how much snow is on the ground through a hole in the belly of the aircraft.

Snowpack supplies about 70 percent of California’s annual precipitation, according to NASA, making it crucial to the water supply of a state that’s experiencing a four-year drought.

Perennial biofuel crops’ water consumption similar to corn

Read the full story from Michigan State University.

Converting large tracts of the Midwest’s marginal farming land to perennial biofuel crops carries with it some key unknowns, including how it could affect the balance of water between rainfall, evaporation and movement of soil water to groundwater.

In humid climates such as the U.S. Midwest, evaporation returns more than half of the annual precipitation to the atmosphere, with the remainder available to recharge groundwater and maintain stream flow and lake levels.

A recent study from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and published in Environmental Research Letters looks at how efficiently “second generation” biofuel crops – perennial, non-food crops such as switchgrass or native grasses – use rainwater and how these crops affect overall water balance.

Building a Stream Protection Rule

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has proposed a new rule for regulation of coal mining to take advantage of new advances in science, and to improve the balance between environmental protection and providing for the Nation’s need for coal as a source of energy. The proposed rule would better protect streams, fish, wildlife, and related environmental values from the adverse impacts of surface coal mining operations and provide mine operators with a regulatory framework to avoid water pollution and the long-term costs associated with water treatment.

The proposed rule would revise OSMRE’s regulations to clearly define “material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area,” and require that each permit specify the point at which adverse mining-related impacts on groundwater and surface water would reach that level of damage. The proposed rule would also require mine operators to collect adequate pre-mining data about the site of the proposed mining operation and adjacent areas to establish an adequate baseline for evaluation of the impacts of mining and the effectiveness of reclamation.

The proposed rule would also adjust monitoring requirements to enable timely detection and correction of any adverse trends in the quality or quantity of surface water and groundwater or the biological condition of streams.

The rule would also ensure protection or restoration of perennial and intermittent streams and related resources, ensure that mine operators and regulatory authorities make use of the most current science and technology, and ensure that land disturbed by mining operations is restored to a condition capable of supporting the uses that it was capable of supporting prior to mining. This rule revision updates and codifies the requirements and dispute resolution procedures involved when the proposed permit or adjacent areas contain federally listed threatened or endangered species and designated critical habitat. The proposed changes would apply to both surface mines and the surface effects of underground mines.

The majority of the proposed revisions update our regulations to incorporate or reflect the best available science and experience gained over the last 30 years. Approximately thirty percent of the proposed rule consists of non-substantive editorial revisions and organizational changes intended to improve consistency, clarity, accuracy, and ease of use.

Energy Department Awards $18 Million to Develop Valuable Bioproducts and Biofuels from Algae

The Energy Department has announced six projects that will receive up to $18 million in funding to reduce the modeled price of algae-based biofuels to less than $5 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) by 2019. This funding supports the development of a bioeconomy that can help create green jobs, spur innovation, improve the environment, and achieve national energy security.

Algal biomass can be converted to advanced biofuels that offer promising alternatives to petroleum-based diesel and jet fuels.  Additionally, algae can be used to make a range of other valuable bioproducts, such as industrial chemicals, bio-based polymers, and proteins. However, barriers related to algae cultivation, harvesting, and conversion to fuels and products need to be overcome to achieve the Department’s target of $3 per gge for advanced algal biofuels by 2030. To accomplish this goal, the Department is investing in applied research and development technologies that can achieve higher yields of targeted bioproducts and biofuels from algae—increasing the overall value for algae biomass.

The projects selected include:

  • Producing Algae and Co-Products for Energy (PACE), Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO – Colorado School of Mines, in collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory, Reliance Industries Ltd., and others, will receive up to $9 million to enhance overall algal biofuels sustainability by maximizing carbon dioxide, nutrient, and water recovery and recycling, as well as bio-power co-generation.
  • Marine Algae Industrialization Consortium (MAGIC), Duke University, Durham, NC – Duke University will receive up to $5.2 million to lead a consortium including University of Hawaii, Cornell University, Cellana and others to produce protein-based human and poultry nutritional products along with hydrotreated algal oil extract.
  • Global Algae Innovations, Inc., El Cajon, CA – Global Algae Innovations will receive up to $1 million to increase algal biomass yield by deploying an innovative system to absorb carbon dioxide from the flue gas of a nearby power plant.
  • Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ – Arizona State University will receive up to $1 million for atmospheric carbon dioxide capture, enrichment, and delivery to increase biomass productivity.
  • University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA – The University of California, San Diego will receive up to $760,000 to develop an automated  early detection system that can identify and characterize infestation or infection of an algae production pond in order to ensure crop health.
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA – Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will receive up to $1 million to protect algal crops by developing “probiotic” bacteria to combat pond infestationand increase ecosystem functioning and resilience.

The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. Learn more about EERE’s work with industry, academia, and national laboratory partners on a balanced portfolio of research in biomass feedstocks and conversion technologies here.

EPA moves to fix air pollution rule after Supreme Court loss

Read the full story in The Hill.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to fix by this spring the problem that caused the Supreme Court to rule against its major air pollution regulation in July.

The EPA told a lower court on Monday that it is formulating a plan to conduct cost-benefit analysis as part of a revision of its finding that the mercury rule is “appropriate and necessary.”

The Water Footprint of California’s Energy System, 1990–2012

Download the document.

A new article by Julian Fulton and  Heather Cooley  evaluates the amount of water consumed in meeting California’s energy needs – also referred to as the water footprint of energy. The article, published in Environmental Science and Technology, examines how the water footprint of energy changed between 1990 and 2012 – finding that the amount of water consumed substantially increased over recent decades without utilizing more of the state’s water resources, but rather by relying more heavily on water resources from outside the state. Much of that increase is attributable to the production of bioethanol, which recent energy policies have promoted to meet state greenhouse gas targets. Fulton and Cooley demonstrate that while efforts to mitigate climate change in California have been successful in reducing greenhouse gases, these policies may have shifted burdens from energy to water, rather than alleviate them. They conclude that more integrated analysis and planning of water and energy systems are needed to ensure that climate adaptation and mitigation strategies do not work at cross purposes.

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